Not Getting Enough Sleep? It May Raise Your Gum Disease Risk

by | Apr 25, 2024 | Periodontal Health | 0 comments

We all need sleep.

Sleep is when important repair work goes on. Toxins and metabolic waste that have built up during the day are cleared from the brain. Memories are consolidated; information from the day before, processed. Meantime, cytokine production increases, bolstering your immune system. Hormones that help repair damaged cells and tissues are released.

Sleep is the opportunity your body needs each day to restore itself.

Lack of sleep can do a lot more than just make you cranky and impair your cognitive abilities such as paying attention and problem-solving. It can weaken your immune system. It can raise your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease and obesity.

And as a new scientific review shows, it can even raise your risk of periodontitis. This is the advanced form of gum disease in which tissue damage occurs, including damage to the bone that supports your teeth.

After searching four major databases of medical research, the authors identified 11 cross-sectional studies that met their criteria. A cross-sectional study is one in which scientists collect data from a group of people at a single point in time. While it can’t tell us much about causality, it can tell us a lot about how common a health condition is.

Analysis of those 11 studies showed that while there was no apparent relationship between periodontitis and either short sleep duration or long, sleeping less than 5 hours nightly was indeed linked with a higher risk of gum disease.

“The exact relationship” between sleep and periodontal health, the authors concluded,

needs to be further substantiated in prospective longitudinal studies. Overall, it seems the appropriate sleep duration may be helpful to mitigate periodontitis.

Yet getting enough good quality sleep on a regular basis can be a real challenge. Sometimes the problem is sleep apnea, in which case CPAP or oral appliance therapy should help. Habitually grinding your teeth during sleep – a habit called “bruxing” – can also keep you from restful sleep. It, too, can be relieved through appliance therapy, along with other measures.

Often, though, the trouble is us – the choices we make that wind up interfering with the quality and quantity of our sleep. It’s so easy to feel compelled to cram more activity into each day than we might choose on our own and stay constantly connected via our various digital devices. We unwittingly train our brains to be so perpetually “on,” it can be hard for it to shut them off when it’s time for sleep.

But you can just as well train your brain – and body – to know when it’s downtime, so you can get the restful and restorative sleep you need. Here are 9 tips to help you get started:

  1. Go to bed at the same time each night. Wake up at the same time each day. Yes, even on weekends.
  2. Avoid eating after 7pm.
  3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks in the evening.
  4. If you need help winding down, try a cup of chamomile tea or a “sleepytime” or “bedtime” blend an hour or so before turning in. The latter typically include soothing herbs such as lemongrass, passionflower, and Valerian root.
  5. Take sleep-supportive supplements such as magnesium or melatonin. A few drops of Valerian extract in water can also be quite effective in encouraging sleep.
  6. At least an hour before bed, avoid TV, computers, and other screens.
  7. Practice controlled breathing to help your body and mind relax. You’ll find several helpful exercises here.
  8. Play some soft, relaxing music. Or try an app such as Calm, which delivers sleep stories, soundscapes, and guided meditations to help you fall asleep more easily. (It provides tools to help you relax and practice mindfulness while you’re awake, too!) Setting it before you sleep is a fair exception to tip #6 above.
  9. Keep a notepad and pen by your bed, so if you find your thoughts racing, you can jot them down quickly – and then let them go.

Redeveloped & updated from this 2015 post

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